In visual journalism and data analysis, the topic that set the trend in the year is definitely the Covid-19 pandemic. For this reason, this selection of projects is based on the different angles of investigation and analysis with which visual and data journalists around the world have helped us to better understand the emerging coronavirus Sars-Cov-2.
Data analysis and visualization
February 10th 2021
The selected projects demonstrate that journalism should be useful and that when it is done to explain to people the reasons of whatever affects them, the user’s retribution is trust and recognition of the value of such content.
Projects are in descending order..
How was data visualization good for people?
The fundamental impact of data visualization was to help us understand and give us useful answers in the midst of the great uncertainty of the pandemic.
Hand in hand with visual and data journalists, we have been decoding what Covid-19 is about and how we can learn to live with it. It served to educate us, assimilate epidemiological terms and speak of them properly. It has served to take care of us.
What lessons did data visualization leave to journalism as a professional exercise?
It has been essential to consolidate graphic communication and data analysis as an effective way of representing and presenting information to understand the world. Covid-19 demonstrated, conclusively, that data analysis has never been a fad but rather a core necessity of the journalistic exercise of the 21st century.
In that sense, the pandemic caused the gap between media to widen even more in the field of visual and data journalism. On the one hand:
It crowned the media and journalists who have consistently, within the last decade, strengthened this way of presenting facts.
Sadly, it also exposed the media that have underestimated or suppressed data analysis and visualization teams in recent years. It also left a great lesson to journalists who – until before March 2020 – believed it was irrelevant to learn to analyze data.
How to make this impact sustainable over time?
There are three influential factors: persistence of the visual journalist, training, and editorial and managerial vision of the media.
In the last five years, my experience as a teacher in Latin America has taught me that many of the good initiatives to do data journalism and visualization come from journalists themselves and not from those who run the media. Journalists who, in order to publish valuable content, fight against the myopia of editors and managers. They do it in their spare time and with the minimum tools available, searching for funds on their own. In those cases, the persistence of the journalist makes the difference and we must acknowledge that effort exclusively to them.
Staying firm on that path of journalism that explains data visually also implies training to be able, for instance, to react quickly and properly to give a news story. As did the Financial Times team, which lectured us on why it is important to know statistics and go beyond basic arithmetic when analyzing and graphing data.
Finally, for data visualization to be sustainable over time, we need editors and managers with long-range vision, who strengthen and expand multidisciplinary teams in the newsrooms. I summarize it in the words of Javier Zarracina, Graphics Director for USA Today: «Graphics are the top, what people demand, the means to adapt and not die; they must have larger and more active infographic sections. Infographics are the engine of change in newsrooms”.
What trends did 2020 set in this field?
2020 taught us that data analysis in journalism must be more tied to mathematics and statistics. It has become clear that rates should be used to compare the incidence of the virus between countries or regions, that mathematical simulation models are useful and, last, that learning to use programs like R and Python to automate some processes and handle databases like the one from Johns Hopkins University and the use given to logarithms are relevant:
Another trend is that we must understand multidisciplinarity not only to work with engineers and designers in the newsroom but with scientists, epidemiologists, academics and all those specialists who generate valuable knowledge.
This year has also taught us that journalism must examine data with less passion and more science, that is, assimilate that data is – often – a human production and therefore subject to biases and errors.
Finally, hopefully editors and media managers have understood that good visual information is rewarded by the audience and profitable, if they have the vision to invest and develop those areas.
In terms of storytelling and visualization, this year consolidated:
Covid 19 inaugurated an era in which good visual journalism must be translated into multiple languages because its quality and usefulness are essential in an interconnected worl
In this section you can see the complete list of projects that I have compiled throughout the year. It is likely that there are many more that I do not know of and may have slipped my radar. I invite you to share your favorites by tweeting me @HasselFallas.
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(The articles in La Data Cuenta are the property of their author, Hassel Fallas. If you wish to reproduce or refer to them, please cite the original source and link the link to its publication).
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